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Bumper field for first enduro

Last year: Holden scored a dominant 1-2-3 victory, while the best Ford could manage was fifth.

Ford and Holden prepare to fight it out in the Queensland 500

22 Aug 2001

THIS weekend's Queensland 500 at Willowbank is the first endurance race of the year and the only round of the Shell Series V8 Supercar championship to be held north of Sydney.

The field is one of the best ever assembled for an endurance race in Australia, with pre-qualifying required to sort out the entry list of 42 cars into the 36 grid positions available.

After eight rounds of the 13-round Shell series, five Fords and five Holdens split the top-10 places, although Holden Racing Team drivers Mark Skaife and Jason Bright fill the first two positions.

Skaife and Bright will share car #1 this weekend, ending speculation HRT would split the pair to give it two chances of victory.

Tomas Mezera and Tony Longhurst will drive the #2 Commodore, after being teamed together for the first time since winning Bathurst in 1988, while the Holden Young Lions entry will be shared by regular driver Paul Romano and former Young Lions squad member Owen Kelly.

Castrol Racing's Larry Perkins will roll out the car he debuted at Calder in round seven, sharing it with regular co-driver Russell Ingall.

The K-Mart Racing Team's lead drivers, Greg Murphy and Todd Kelly, will team together in the #15 Commodore, with Kelly's younger brother Rick driving the #51 car with Nathan Pretty.

Rick Kelly is the newly crowned Australian Drivers' Champion and will be making his V8 Supercar debut, while Pretty teamed with Todd in last year's endurance races.

The other major Holden combinations are defending Bathurst champions Garth Tander and Jason Bargwanna in the Valvoline Cummins Commodore and the Big Kev entry of Paul Morris and Matthew Neal.

Ford will field 12 factory-supported teams, led by the Shell Helix pairing of Steven Johnson and Paul Radisich. They will debut a new Falcon XR8 race car on Sunday, after putting the vehicle through its paces in a short "shakedown" during the week.

Sharing the team's second car will be Paul Stokell and Greg Ritter, both making their debut for the Shell team after a number of tests earlier in the season.

Gibson Motorsport is working around the clock to have a new Falcon ready for Craig Lowndes and Neil Crompton for this weekend's race, with Crompton making his long awaited debut after sitting out the year while the new team focussed on running one car for Lowndes.

Mark Larkham has announced former bike world champion Wayne Gardner will be his co-driver for this race and the Bathurst enduro in October. Another former world champion in the Queensland 500 field will be 1980 Formula One world champion Alan Jones, who will be co-driving the Toll Falcon with Anthony Tratt.

Caltex Havoline Racing has brought in 2000 Konica Series runner-up Matthew White to partner lead driver David Besnard, who heads into the race in good form after finishing second behind Skaife at the previous round in Sydney.

John Bowe has drafted this year' Konica Series champion Simon Wills into the CAT Racing team for this event - the first time the pair of dual Australian Drivers' Championship winners have teamed up.

Scottish driver John Cleland will make his annual visit to Australia for the V8 Supercar endurance races, sharing the OzEmail Falcon with Brad Jones.

Prancing Horse Racing will make its debut in the Shell Series in a new Budweiser-backed Falcon with Mark Noske and Craig Baird behind the wheel.

Event Information
Circuit: Queensland Raceway, Willowbank
Length: 3.1km
Race distance: 161 laps - 499.1 km
Lap record (qualifying): 1m09.2594s John Bowe (1999)
Lap record (race): 1m11.0033s Garth Tander (1999)
Estimated top speed: 250 km/h (back straight)
Estimated average speed: 155 km/h Saturday:
Qualifying 12.35-1.30pm
Top-15 Shootout 3.15pm Sunday:
1 Skaife (HRT) 2006 points
2 Bright (HRT) 1902
3 Johnson (Shell Ford) 1692
4 Ingall (Castrol Holden) 1675
5 Lowndes (Gibson Ford) 1365
6 Ambrose (Pirtek Ford) 1328
7 Murphy (K-Mart Holden) 1323
8 Richards (Tickford Ford) 1316
9 Radisich (Shell Ford) 1305
10 Kelly (K-Mart Holden) 1266

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